We all have times in our lives when our commitments outweigh our energy. When we've said yes to way to many things and can't see how it will all get done. When even the things we love start to feel like a burden and we long for a bottle of wine, our couch, and all the Netflix we can handle (it’s not just me, is it?). I’m coming to the end of one of those seasons and though I am deeply tired and quite achy, I am still standing, with a much lower meltdown factor than I expected. Here are six things that have helped me survive the last month with my joy and creativity (mostly) intact:
The number one thing that keeps me on track day after day after day. This is my one non-negotiable, sacred requirement. Ask my partner: everything we do is planned around my sleep schedule. Normally I need eight and a half hours, but when I’m working all day every day, that number goes up to nine or even 10 hours. It might seem counter-intuitive but the more work I have, the more stressed I am, the earlier I go to bed. Without fail.
My daily meditation practice has also become more important. It lets me watch the constant swirl of to-do list-related thoughts, and recognize that those thoughts are not reality. The future is not reality and neither is the past. Reality is here and now, watching my breath go in and out, and finding softness and sweetness in the present moment. That’s not to say that I’m usually able to make the sandstorm of thoughts stop. But practicing watching it and feeling all the feelings it brings up helps me be more conscious and aware throughout the rest of the day. I helps me savour the beautiful moments instead of grumpily pushing past them.
Last week I bought myself an entire chocolate cake. There was one day where I watched almost an entire season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race while I worked (who would have thought reality TV could be so inspiring?). Every day I try to think of something that makes me wiggle with joy and seek it out. Walks in the sunshine count. Extra cuddles with my beloved count. It can be anything that reminds me that I'm not actually imprisoned by my work. I still get to feel good.
Inviting friends along
I told everyone that I was hermitting while I worked on new pieces for four shows. But I also made it clear that I would love company at the events I was involved in and I scheduled a ‘Finish that Project’ party. I invited friends to come over with a project they were working on so we could all chat and hang out while also being productive. It was wonderful, and gave me lots of steam for a particularly tedious project.
Letting myself off the hook
There is no way to get through stressful, busy times without being 100% on my own side. If I get down on myself, I’m not going to make it. So I’ve learned to take it easy on myself whenever possible. I try to get as much exercise as I can, but I’m not watching my steps like I usually do. I eat more takeout than I normally would and am not fussy about the meals I do make. I decide that I will bring less work to each event than I’d hoped and that it will be fine. And when I succumb to the wine + couch + Netflix fantasy a week and a half before my last deadline, I don’t beat myself up over it. Whatever needs to get done will get done.
I have a hair appointment booked. A new dress has been purchased. Texts have been sent and a dinner is planned. A float in a sensory deprivation tank is booked. Once I finish teaching my class on Friday I’m going to turn my brain off for three whole days. I first discovered how good it feels to actively celebrate achievements when I finished off another big project a few years ago. And for me, a private little ‘woohoo!’ isn’t enough. I want to be surrounded by people I care about and indulge in something a little bit extravagant. I can’t wait for Friday.